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Why use digital audio?
Better sound with digital
By Russell Kibbee
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-07
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The greatest advances in music have been made since digital audio came into being 15 years ago. Why has this occurred and what are some of the specific advantages given to us by digital audio? This series will answer these questions and may even bring up some ideas that you had not thought of.

Step 1: Is there superior sound quality?
The question of which format (digital or analog) has the superior sound quality has been raging in the audiophile circle for years. The purists believe that since sound is analog in nature (comprised of sound waves) and digital is made of 1’s and 0’s, then digital is simply an approximation of the original sound.

Step 2: Interpret the numbers
Sound is a very subjective concept. Everyone’s eardrums are shaped differently and thus the sound might be heard in a different way. What is fact is that digital audio can achieve a dynamic range of 96 dB as opposed to the 80 dB possible with analog. This will be more noticeable in music with wide variations in sound levels.

Step 3: Keeping the noise away
Anyone who has listened to LPs knows all about this advantage. The phonograph is prone to scratches and dust that creates "skips" and "pops" in the sound. These pops are non-existent in CDs and the player using interpolation with generally good results handles scratches.

Step 4: Digital avoiding background noise
When the analog signal travels through the various parts of your stereo system, it will pick up background noise from various components. This will show up as an audible "hum" in the sound. Extremely expensive analog components are required to counteract this effect, while digital signals of any type are impervious to this interference.


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